> our title:

Buy American to Help French UAV Industry, Says French Senate

> original title:

Choice of an Interim Drone

(Source: French Senate Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee; issued Nov. 28, 2011)

(Issued in French only; unofficial translation by defense-aerospace.com)

By capping UAV funds, the French Senate aims to force the defense ministry to buy the MQ-1 Predator instead of the costlier Heron TP. (USAF photo)

PARIS --- The Senate has adopted the amendment tabled by the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Armed Forces committee regarding the Heron TP interim drone.

By this amendment, which was adopted in committee by a bipartisan majority of 33 votes to 3, the Senate wanted to separate, in the general interest, the immediate operational needs of the forces from any consideration of industrial policy.

In this spirit, Senators decided to privilege, in the short term, the security of our troops by providing them with the best equipment available at the lowest price, in this case General Atomics’ Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle while fostering, in the medium term, the emergence of a specialized industry sector by reserving a substantially higher share of funding than it was due to receive under the government’s industrial plan.

Consequently, the Senate vote capped at 209 million euros the funding available for the interim procurement of a MALE drone capability, until the arrival of the third-generation French-British UAV.

This level of funding will finance the off-the-shelf procurement of the American Reaper drone.

The 80 million euros thus saved will directly benefit French and European industry, and particularly their initial research and technology efforts, while obviating the need to procure the Heron TP drone made by the Israeli firm IAI, which is more expensive and lower-performing than its American competitor.

The Minister of Defence, Gérard Longuet, acknowledged, is his testimony before the foreign affairs, defence and armed services committee, that the Heron TP drone is about 30% more expensive than the Reaper while under-performing it by a margin of about 20%.

Senators note that the firm IAI was initially selected in 1997 to supply its Hunter UAV, which was adapted to French requirements by SAGEM, and subsequently, in 2002, to supply the Heron 1, which was adapted by EADS. Unfortunately, neither of these initiatives allowed the emergence of a national industrial capability in the field of MALE (medium altitude, long endurance) drones.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: While the French Senate doesn’t have the power to impose its will on the lower House and the government, it is worth noting that this initiative risks disrupting the government’s policy in terms of MALE UAVs by forcing its reappraisal in a more public context. Click here for more information on this subject)